Ireland launches 3G ‘beauty contest’

Operators grumble about cost of licences

Ireland has fixed the price firms will have to pay for a 3G licence in the country.

Unlike Britain, Ireland has decided to award four licences through a "beauty contest" and not through an auction process.

Reuters reports that the one "A" licence, which requires comprehensive coverage, will cost 50.7 million euros (£31.4), and the three "B" licences 114.3 million. Firms that obtain a "B" license need only offer coverage in Ireland's five major cities.

There's an unfront payment of about a quarter of the licence fee, followed by regular payment between the fourth and 15th years of the 20 year licence.

Operators have complained that the licence fees are too high but, reflecting the current telco slump, they are a fraction of the price that might have been raised by an auction last year.

Ireland's 3G bidding process has been put back a year because of a dispute between telco regulator Etain Doyle and the country's finance ministry.

The winning applicants for the licences will be announced in June next year, with services expected to begin in January 2004. ®

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